UNGASS Special Segment Day 3 – Interactive discussion on Cross-cutting issues: New challenges, threats and realities in preventing and addressing the world drug problem in compliance with relevant international law

UNODC Introduction – New challenges have emerged in recent years related to new harmful substances and new trafficking route, and new trafficking modus operandi. Successes can be claimed in terms of reduced illicit cultivation and improved treatment services. But, challenges remain in ensuring the right balance in reduction of both demand and supply.

Some of the challenges include NPS which are emerging at an alarming rate. Traffickers also continue to try and circumvent interdiction by identifying new routes and exploiting corrupt security forces. East and Western Africa have suffered over the last decade.

In the past few years, drug trafficking has triggered a new surge of violence in West Africa, Latin America and West Asia, and countries are paying a high price in terms of lives lost.

Many developing country in Asia and Africa lack capacity to compile and disseminate the most basic drug trafficking information. Enhancing international cooperation is key to address this. A regional approach can play a key role in ensuring success in combating trafficking.

In the past few years, UNODC has promoted regional initiatives to address the drug problem. Recognising the need to tackle the problem at the inter-regional level, UNODC has facilitated law enforcement centres to encourage training.

At the core of international cooperation, there is the need for effective exchange of information, but knowledge gaps exist. Sharing data and other information is essential to obtaining an accurate picture of the drug situation.

This panel presents an opportunity for states to improve effectiveness of our international cooperation.

Asia Pacific Group (China) – Drug control authorities around the world are faced with a number of challenges, including diversion of precursor chemicals, emergence of NPS and the emergence of the internet as a marketplace for drugs.

Most precursor chemicals have legitimate uses. New drugs will appear after certain drugs are placed under control. Different regions vary in their ways of drug making. For example, methamphetamine seized in the US is cooked with fenylacetone. In recent years, Mexico underground labs have begun producing methamphetamine with different, unregulated precursors.

In order to obtain high profits, criminals employ chemists to analyse which unscheduled chemicals they can use to produce methamphetamine.

The proliferation of NPS continues to pose challenges, as noted in many reports. However, the conventions lag behind in dealing with this problem. Ketamine is a key example of this. China has worked to combat this and the increasing risks of ketamine abuse and trafficking. Only by putting this under international control can we properly combat its diversion and misuse. This approach would need to be balanced, though, by ensuring ketamine can still be accessed as a medicine.

The imbalance in the scope of control in different countries makes it possible for traffickers to engage in large scale trafficking in NPS and chemicals across the world. There is virtually no abuse of 4MMC in China thanks to domestic efforts to control the drug.

Addressing the challenges requires on the one hand efforts at the domestic level by the government and businesses to properly control precursors. At the international level, great cooperation is needed. Positive consideration should be given to placing substances under control internationally that have already created harms to society. Demand reduction is only possible when all countries adhere to all relevant international laws and adopt holistic, mutually reinforcing strategies.

EEG (Russia) – We believe it’s important to draw your attention to the follow – The illegal drug trade is worth billions of dollars. If fighting drugs we have major national experience, we have not the same level of experience in fighting associated money laundering. If the drug trade was not so lucrative, no one would become involved in it. Studies show that proceeds of the drug trade, from the sale of synthetic and biological drugs, are very high. We’re seeing major financial flows which are turned into investment. These financial centres are located all over the world.

At the same time we have the problem of emerging NPS, profits from which are in the hands of criminal gangs. Investigating the financial basis of the drug trade requires addressing many different questions; identifying flows, financial centres and what types of businesses this money is invested into.

These are difficult tasks but ones we can address. There are systemic issues such as use by the drug trade of offshore and online areas for money laundering. We’ve identified companies whose accounts house money procured from cocaine and heroin trafficking, and these have networks that spread all over the world.

Online currencies facilitate money laundering and these schemes cover all countries. The challenge we face of revealing the financial aspects of the drug problem has a truly international dimension.

The chairman of the General Assembly called on us to have a truly international approach to dealing with the drug problem. We need to join forces and enhance cooperation. For this reason Russia has submitted a draft resolution to better combat the financial aspect of the drug trade.

GRULAC (Bolivia) – Some of the things I’m going to say were touched open during the opening of this session. It’s clear there are some things we don’t want to occur. We don’t want to separate the general from the specific, that is addressing the issue of drugs as if it were disconnected from the international economic order, or from the existing economic models applied worldwide. A world in which we are seeing the globalisation of capital and capital interest. These models are based on the accumulation of wealth through looting and displacing people, and sentencing to death thousands of individuals.

We don’t want to continue a drug strategy based on militarisation; one that serves geopolitical interest of those who claim to represent a unipolar world. The only purpose of this strategy is to put a price on human life. We don’t want to ignore the fact that when assessing countries in their struggle against drugs, there is at the same time open and blatant persecution of those who have taken their own approach.

What do we want then? We want is to understand that our position on the world drug problem is not a unified position. There is no single model for all. There are different positions depending on the degree of real impact drugs have had on our economies and people. We want to break the monopoly when it comes to certifying harmful substances our countries deal with and tackle. We want to engage in debate that is based on the specificities on each country and its traditions. We want to a debate a strategy that is diverse and not one size fits all, and combines the general and the specific. In general, what this means is forging a new international economic order. One can’t act based on a double standard –  that is condemning the drug trafficker and producer while failing to address the issues that underpin and lead to this problem.

Drugs trade is a typical example of a capitalist trade – low investment and high wealth. We need a new international economic order where we stop doing what we’ve done to date, an order which distributes wealth. Only then will we be able to make sure that human beings at the centre of the problem, not capital. We must focus on the needs of the human being.

Working with UNASUR and CELAC we’re able to support a regional counter-drugs strategy, one that leads to the establishment of institutions that make it possible to harness efforts, and at the same time will promote cooperation with other continents. This will help tackle prevention and strengthen prohibition as part of our struggle against drugs.

We wish to reiterate that developed countries must do more to combat drug trafficking and money launder. They must combat the industrial culture. We want the human being placed at the heart of this issue, not capital. We have done nothing to combat the culture of industry, instead focusing on drug traffickers, producers and so on.

From this angle, therefore, the regionalisation of our drug strategy should take into account different positions. We must work to protect Mother Earth and place the human being at the centre. The drug problem should not be discussed as an isolated experience. Everything must be changed. Next year will be an opportunity to discuss each of these problems.

WEOG (France) – Healthcare measures should be used to reduce demand. I’m a scientist, not a diplomat .

The scientific understanding of the drug problem recognises three steps:

  1. Occasional drug intake where the subject is not dependent and can stop this will. 80% of the world population is vulnerable to this and it is difficult to eradicate.
  2. Drug abuse where use is chronic and excessive. Only 30-40% of occasional users shift to abuse.
  3. Drug addiction where the individual loses control of their intake and cannot stop. Only 15-20% of occasional users shift to addiction.

So, three stages and different measures for each. During occasional drug use, drug taking is under the free choice of the subject. However, during abuse and addiction, drug use is a disease.

We need research into new healthcare measures. Many existing treatment is psychological which is important but not enough; they’re too dependent on social and cultural background of the subject. We need in addition pharmacological treatment as with other diseases to complement this.

There is new hope to developing pharmacological treatment. [Explains discovery of pharmacological approach to combating cannabis use that blocks THC, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana].

This compound is ready for clinical trials by the end of the year and is representative of new hope in treating addiction pharmacologically. We need to treat addiction early. At the moment, we wait for it to fully develop, making treatment harder.

We should encourage member states to invest more in development of these treatments. The treatment of drug addiction should be made a priority.

I hope to have at least partially convinced you that in fighting drugs science can help in reducing drugs.

Lisa Sanchez (Civil Society) – Thank you Mr. Chair. Before I start I would like to thank the Civil Society Task Force for inviting me to participate in this discussion today based on my expertise in drug policy. However, because civil society views on this topic are broad and diverse, my statements should not be taken as representative of civil society as a whole. I hope that my input will open the door to broader discussions about these issues in the future.

Reflecting on the tile of this session I’d like to focus on three points during my presentation. First of all, I’ll be touching on the state of current international drug policy in terms of the achievement of its stated objectives as expressed in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action. This, in order to provide some context of the new realities we’re currently experiencing. Secondly, I’d like to briefly describe the available practical experiences and lessons learned from the reform movement so we can continue promoting a constructive dialogue on new alternatives; and finally, I’d like to take a moment to address what we, civil society organizations advocating for more effective and humane policies, think are the most important challenges in the run-up for UNGASS 2016.

New realities

The international drug control regime has been built upon an absolute position which seeks to eliminate or significantly reduce the availability and use of drugs for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. Since its creation in 1961, supply and demand reduction have been the main components of the control strategies allowed for Member States to deal with a very complex phenomenon that, although it expresses itself differently from country to country, it’s expected to be solved using a “one size fits all” approach.

After several decades of implementation, results achieved have been at best mixed if not merely insufficient. According to data provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, while the use of illicit drugs seems to have stabilized in some regions, it continues to increase in many others. The same goes for supply reduction, where the efforts to reduce cultivation of illicit crops have been offset by a rise in the production of synthetic drugs, including the substantial increase in production and use of novel psychoactive substances not subject to international control.

Beyond this, the UNODC has also recognized the existence of a number of “unintended negative consequences” undermining the effectiveness of the international drug control regime. These are: the creation of a vast criminal market; the shift of production to new areas; the diversion of public resources from health to law enforcement; the shift towards the use of new drugs; and the stigmatization and marginalization of people who use drugs. But other negative consequences exist despite of not being appropriately acknowledged yet: what happens with the social and economic consequences of drug enforcement? And with the deterioration of development and security it causes? What to do when States don’t fulfil their obligations in terms of respecting the right to health of people who use drugs? How can we reduce the pain and eliminate preventable deaths? What about the systematic violation of Human Rights and the criminalization of the poor in the name of drug control? How to deal with the perpetuation of incentives to join organized crime and strengthen their economic power? What about violence and the increase of the corrupting potential of criminal organisations undermining democracy and governance? These are just some of the questions that we’re still to respond if we aspire to deliver balanced, comprehensive, effective and more humane policies.

If the 2009’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action aimed at eliminating illicit drug production and demand while reducing drug-related health and social harms, and drug-related money laundering, the 2015 reality proves that we have not succeeded at doing so, and that a lot still needs to be done. As we head into the UNGASS, Member States, Civil Society Organizations, Scientists and other relevant stakeholders should take the opportunity to have an open debate on the drug phenomena to focus, instead, on how the international drug control regime can contribute to the achievement of broader UN objectives such as public health, human security, social and economic development, and human rights.

New approaches

While it’s true that the first step towards a better regime has been given, transiting to an open, meaningful debate on viable alternatives still requires an effort of demystification. No, advocating for alternative approaches does not mean advocating just for legally regulated markets. Alternatives can also be, and have been in the past, about the implementation of a broad range of different policy responses aimed at tackling different issues. Moreover, these alternatives already exist in reality and have been successfully implemented in many parts of the world proving that reform is not only desirable but possible, and that its consequences are far from being catastrophic. At present, we know that:

  • Some 30 countries and jurisdictions have decriminalized personal possession of some, or all illegal drugs either de jure or de facto;
  • Other countries have gone beyond decriminalization and have experimented with different alternatives of market regulation models, including the prescription of some drugs like heroin and amphetamines for people with addiction problems;
  • We also know that some jurisdictions had given a try to legal regulation of cannabis either partially or totally, developing differentiated models to better respond to the local needs.
  • In other places, like New Zealand, the possibility of developing regulatory mechanisms for “new psychoactive substances” has been discussed.
  • Other countries like India and Turkey have strong regulatory systems for legal poppy cultivation and legal production of opiates for the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Nations from the global north and the global south are currently revising their criminal justice systems to ensure proportionality of sentencing for drug offences and alternatives for non-violent crimes.
  • Lastly, several jurisdictions around the globe have adopted specific harm reduction interventions for people who use drugs that, beyond NSEP and OST, are currently trying to develop services for non-injectors.

In summary, alternative policies and reform are a common practice in both developed and developing countries, and all available experiences can teach us significant lessons on how to modernize the system while providing less punitive and rigid responses to the drug phenomena. Ignoring this reality would be both counterproductive and irresponsible.

New challenges

Knowing that there is still room for improvement, and that alternative policies can be developed and have been applied, the next thing we need to acknowledge is that our world no longer shares a monolithic view on the drug issue. It is precisely the lack of acceptance of this fact that causes the key emerging challenge we’re facing: the survival of the international drug control system.

I’d like to mention some of the current tensions feeding this challenge:

  • First of all, the fact that we keep confusing drug use harms with drug policy harms. This can only lead to weak analysis and poor policy choices. We need to separate these in order to transit to a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of drug enforcement on the key pillars of the United Nations: health, human rights, security and development.
  • Second, there are clear frustrations, amongst civil society and Member States, with the failings of the system -both on its own terms and in terms of the negative unintended consequences it causes.
  • Third, a key problem is that whilst these ‘unintended consequences’ are acknowledged they are not systematically monitored and evaluated, and mostly do not feature in the World Drugs report, and only rarely in discussions of the CND. It is time to count the costs and for that new metrics needed to inform the debate on responses to all aspects of the problem.
  • Fourth, a key issue in addressing these emerging challenges is that the current drug control infrastructure actively stifles innovation and experimentation. Certain policy options have been historically discouraged – such as harm reduction and decriminalisation, whilst others are actively forbidden, specifically regulation. This is a fundamentally anti-science position; the UN should be encouraging and nurturing experimentation, innovation and information sharing on new approaches that may be able to more effectively deliver on the shared goals of member states and the treaties as originally envisaged: the ‘health and welfare of mankind’.
  • Finally, it is vital that the UNGASS consolidates itself as an open and honest debate, where the problems and limitations of the current international framework are discussed, alongside the possibilities for a process of modernisation that can accommodate the changing needs of member states. This, of course, can only be done if we effectively include civil society and most affected groups to the discussion.

Colombia – We have been a country emphasising that all areas should be debated in order to obtain better results at the UNGASS. Often, we ask what the new challenges and realities are.

We have mentioned that human rights have lost the place they should hold in drug policies. Drug use has not declined. We refer to the fact that there has been an increase in use of amphetamines, and there are a growing number of NPS. We’re not putting an end to the drug trade; quite the opposite.

Our prisons are overflowing with people incarcerated for drugs. We’re underscoring the need to change the approach. The one of the past 50 years is no longer valid. We think about adopting an approach where the human being is placed at the heart of it. We emphasise the need to promote the public health and development angle. We have the moral authority to request these changes as Colombia has demonstrated relative success in tackling drugs, something which has brought a very high cost.

The presentation of the panelists made today focused on human rights, but this needs to really be made a cornerstone of the UNGASS debates. Thank you.

Venezuela – Venezuela was a pioneer as far back as 2012 when calling for a new approach to the world drug problem. We pointed out the need for a more humane approach, one that is guided by the social and health consequences of drug use and would extend the scope of treatment.

We need a new approach the sustains interdiction efforts. We’re of the view that member states should be able to identify changes in the approach and should not restrict themselves to the operative paragraphs adopted by this CND. We would like three drug conventions to continue to form the foundation, but the policy ultimately remains in the purview of each state.

We need a better understanding of the world drug problem by addressing the roots of the issue. Our proposal, therefore, is to understand causes and design policies that address them. This would result in clear benefits.

Thailand – Thailand is not a chemical producing country, but an importer of precursors. Precursor chemical control committee has been set up since 1993 to combat diversion of these chemicals for illicit use and production of illegal drugs.

The cooperation between our government and industry has been strengthened to better control precursors. We promote international cooperation in the face of NPS. Thailand recommends cooperation on international control of ketamine to prevent misuse while still ensuring access to the drug as a medicine.

We attach great importance to enhancing its partnerships not only other governments but civil society as well. There is no one size fits all solution across the world. We must, though, seek a solution through an integrated and mutually reinforcing approach.

We pledge to work closely with international organisations and civil society toward a safe society in view of

Slovenia – I have a question for Dr Piazza – I would like to know if you do experiments for treatment of cocaine use. Thank you

Guatemala – We’ve seen an increase in drug use and incarceration for drug offences. We can’t continue to apply the same approach.

Guatemala has always called for an open debate on the world drug problem. Not only do we have to address the new realities that exist, but we have to take into account new challenges that lead us all here with the view to UNGASS 2016. We can’t fail to respond to new challenges. At the same time we must look at the ones that are most important.

The criminal justice strategy should not be prioritised. The conventions oblige us all to uphold the human being and their rights. Not enough has been done to guarantee access to medication and access to treatment.

Drug policy must be comprehensive, and is a challenge that all countries should try to shoulder.

Some experiments, for example decriminalization, have proven successful and these are models we will shortly be able to implement based on the results they produce.

We need to ensure individuals are at the heart of drug policy, not substances. Guatemala is working with its national commission and exploring extending legal reforms. We call on all countries to respectfully support this.

Afghanistan – This discussion is timely and important. The increasing use of modern equipment and coordination between trafficking groups and terrorism are concerns.

Shortage of international cooperation has hindered effective response to new challenges. Low level of drug seizures compared to increased production, and the increasing reliance of drug traffickers on maritime routes are some trends that need to be addressed.

We need stronger efforts to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Mexico – Indeed there are new challenges and threats that we must take into account. It is nothing new that a group of countries here would emphasise, as in 1998 with the UNGASS, new approaches to be adopted as well as new policies to address the drug problem.

Based on all the points raised, we can identify that there are certain elements that need to be addressed at UNGASS 2016. First of all, we must acknowledge the economic and social impact of drug laws and the use of alternative measures to incarceration.

We must also consider and discuss the transnational effects of unilateral policies and measures, particularly those that explore regulation. In the same vein, availability and access to medicinal substances must be incorporated into UNGASS priorities.

Combating money laundering must be coordinated between states. This work must tie into the work of combating organised crime, not just drug trafficking, but arms and human trafficking, too.

We’d also like to highlight the need to design clear mandates for bodies dealing with these issues. I’m referring in particular to institutions such as the UNDP, OHCHR and WHO.

We pledge our commitment to following up on this issues.

Transnational Institute – One of the biggest new challenges the world is confronted with is the accelerating dynamic of drug policy changes and increasing doubts about the effectiveness of the current drug control system.

These first days here at the CND have demonstrated that a change of course in drug policy is taking place: many delegations emphasize more focus on health and development, less criminalization, more respect for human rights and proportionality in sentencing, better access to essential medicines, and so on. The discussion is, from TNI’s perspective, clearly moving in the right direction, and fortunately the Conventions allow significant flexibility to facilitate such a process of humanization of drug control.

But the challenge facing us is bigger than that. Just over one year away from the 2016 UNGASS, denying the reality that the drug policy landscape has fundamentally changed and that also systemic breaches have started to take place is no longer a credible option. Especially with regard to coca leaf and cannabis regulation, tensions have risen between ongoing reforms and the limits of latitude of the UN drug control treaty framework. An honest and open debate about the inconsistencies and the outdated nature of the treaty regime cannot be avoided much longer.

The pressure coming from national policy changes will keep building and the UN regime will soon have to show the capacity for evolution providing more space to accommodate those developments. Otherwise the treaty system risks becoming irrelevant as more countries resort to untidy unilateral re-interpretations leading to an a-la-carte approach of cherry-picking those treaty provisions politically convenient and simply ignoring the rest, and in so doing weakening respect for the basic principles of international law.

At the same time, it is perfectly understandable, that many countries resist putting treaty reform formally on the agenda. Under current political conditions, given the stalemate quickly encountered in consensus-driven negotiations, to start negotiating treaty amendments or even a new Convention would inevitably turn the resultant negotiations into trench warfare. A more promising approach would be to explore, at least for the interim, systemic reform options not necessarily requiring consent of all treaty parties.

The first thing Member States should not do is to deny that there are difficulties emerging with the status quo of the international drug control regime and to impose limits on the scope for discussion allowed at the UNGASS. Trying to limit the UNGASS objective to further strengthening the implementation of the 2009 Political Declaration, would be losing an important opportunity. Declaring the treaty system to be a sacred cornerstone for the future whose integrity needs to be defended at all costs, is counterproductive. An open debate is an open debate, full stop. It is no longer an open debate if certain ideas for improvement are declared to be off-limit.

Perhaps lessons can be drawn from the two previous special sessions on drugs in 1990 and 1998. In both cases, special advisory groups played a useful role, in spite of their restricted mandates and exclusively governmental nature. It might well be worth consideration to use that mechanism again for the 2016 UNGASS, with a more inclusive composition and broader mandate, all the more so given the array of tensions, cracks and breaches currently at play. The expert advisory group should cover key issues emerging in the UNGASS preparations, including the UN institutional drug-control architecture; UN system-wide coherence on drug policy; harmonization of drug control with human rights and development principles; inconsistencies of the treaty regime regarding scheduling criteria and procedures; securing the availability of controlled drugs for medical purposes; and the increasing legal tensions with evolving policy practices, especially with regard to cannabis regulation. The group’s main task would be to recommend how to better deal with these contentious and difficult issues following the 2016 UNGASS, in preparation for the next UN high-level review in 2019.

While recognizing the special role and expertise of the Vienna-based agencies, another lesson learned from previous special sessions is the importance of active involvement of all relevant UN agencies. Soliciting and mandating the participation of the UN agencies working in the fields of health, social and economic development, human rights and peace-keeping would surely contribute to a more holistic and balanced approach at the upcoming UNGASS.

Finally, UN special sessions are precious—and costly—political opportunities for the international community to discuss the main global challenges and to agree on more effective policy responses to protect the welfare of humankind. Which is why Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged member states to use the 2016 UNGASS on drugs “to conduct a wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options.”

USA – This is an example of an open and inclusive debate that is a good step toward what we expect next year at the UNGASS.

I want to dwell on contributions of countries from my hemisphere and call attention to a document produced by the OAS last year. This resolution focuses on promoting the well being of people, and the individual. It emphasises new challenges and approaches while addressing the targets of the 2009 declaration. The points of the document were:

  • Commitment to drug conventions.
  • Commitment to a health-based approach.
  • Strengthen national health systems.
  • Promote alternatives to incarceration, taking into account gender.
  • The document looks at the challenge of NPS and encourages more international cooperation.
  • The need to prevent organised criminal groups access to financial systems and to tackle money laundering.

In summary, this document shows that incremental change is possible within the conventions. We can work together to build consensus and move forward without giving up on the basic drug control framework.

UK – I would like to focus on one specific new threat – NPS. The UK is committed to working with international partners to combating NPS through a balanced approach.

I’d like to offer concrete action points:

  • We must enhance information sharing, and support the UNODC early warning system.
  • We must focus limited resources on most harmful substances.
  • We should schedule most harmful substances where it would not hinder availability of medical use.

The next step in this work will take place this Friday when the subject of mephedrone and its scheduling will be raised. We hope this NPS will be placed under international control.

De Justicia – I will be addressing item 4 of the agenda concerning international law in tackling new challenges. It’s clear that member states should not only uphold the three drug conventions but must uphold human rights commitments. But, what happens when these enter into conflict when governments violate human rights by carrying out drug policy commitments?

We’re of the view that human rights obligations should prevail for philosophical and legal reasons. Human rights obligations derive directly from the UN Charter on Human Rights. Member states have derived that they have obligations to human rights domestically based on their commitment to the UN Charter. This is a solid principle of international law.

Obligations to the drug conventions do not derive from the Charter. The provisions of the Charter and human rights obligations must prevail.

The three conventions cannot be implemented as if they were an autonomous international regime. They must rest on human rights law.

Nicaragua – I would also affirm that human rights are fundamental. We must acknowledge other principles that are fundamental, such as the sovereignty and the right to non-intervention. Therefore, any conclusions from the panel must be based on these international norms. Accordingly, we’d like to state the following – while there’re different realities used for different countries and regions, we must embark on an open and inclusive discussion. We should avoid engaging in an unproductive dialogue. We can’t apply a one size fits all model to all states.

Moreover, the human rights discourse where the individual is placed at the heart of this issue, this must be done while recalling the other rights of the individual, including the right to grow up in a drugs free environment.

We don’t want to establish a new world order based on the accumulation of wealth for the minority. To conclude, I have 2 questions:

  1. For Dr Piazza – he said that we now understand how marijuana addiction can be curbed. Given that this has been discovered, we would like to ask whether we also have a better understanding of the harmful causes of drug abuse.
  2. To Lisa Sanchez – does she think that changing policies, as she has suggested in terms of eradication, does she also think this will lead to the eradication of other criminal phenomena such as corruption and bribery?

Algeria – I want to underline the importance of the drug conventions. However, cooperation with certain countries to tackle drugs is not always possible. No country alone can tackle these problems so we need effective cooperation.

IFRC – We note with satisfaction the increased understanding of drug addiction as a health issue. We’ve been advocating over the past decade for humanitarian drug policy. People dependent on drugs are among the most vulnerable and marginalised in the world. Yet, drug users remain excluded from society and face social stigma and the threat of imprisonment. They face serious health issues — almost half of drug users have hepatitis C.

2015 is exciting as we now have a cure for hepatitis C and governments should take responsibility to ensure these new medicines are distributed.

It is estimated that between 85 and 90% of people who use drugs face imprisonment at some point in their lives. They face barriers to accessing treatment. People who use drugs should be treated as those who suffer an illness, not criminals. Regrettably programs supporting drug users have suffered a drop in funding over the past decade.

A well known drug user is always a problematic person. But a not known drug user is twice as dangerous. We must keep in touch with all drug users, and this is not impossible if there is the political will. The IFRC pledges to actively address the issue of substance abuse from a humanitarian perspective. We call on governments to take an approach based on humane policies and social inclusion. More resources are required to do this. The IFRC with a global presence is ready to intensify operational interaction and collaborate with different partners, including governments media and civil society.

Saudi Arabia – I wish to pay tribute to the panelists, especially hats off to Dr Piazza. There were two important scientific questions raised.

Is there a scientific relationship which renders the smoker more prone to abuse of drugs?

Pakistan – There are many emerging threats including NPS and amphetamine type stimulants (ATS). In our understanding require enhanced international cooperation. There is an emerging trend to camouflage the threat of drugs under human rights and move toward legalisation. This should not be promoted.

Sudan – In all international meetings we speak about challenges, research and emergence of new forms of drugs, yet we don’t speak about effective treatment and research in this field. Often we have spoken about the negative consequences of drugs, however we feel that we have not seen effective experiments in dealing with the question of demand reduction. We dwell at length on supply reduction.

Narcotic drugs affects all sectors of society. We must promote policies which stress demand reduction and should mobilise different sectors of society — youth and civil society — and direct our efforts in order to work within the communities. This is positive and has good results. Dealers and users live within the community and should be dealt with in the community.

South Africa – On the point raised by Guatemala – we do not fear different policies on drugs, we rather do not see them as useful in tackling the problem of drugs.

I wish to ask the representative of civil society a question as she said a change of course on drug policy is under way. How is this change going to impact on domestic violence, public insecurity, road accidents and people dropping out of school?

Any future approach should not undermine the drug conventions.
Cameroon – It’s not a matter of reviewing the legal framework that’s been put in place, however we must ask ourselves who are the victims. It’s important not to circumvent national matters and those pertaining to cultural tradition.

IDPC – Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you, Mr Chairman for giving me the space in this general debate to speak to delegates today, and to the CND Bureau and Secretariat for the generally improved arrangements for civil society to contribute to the debates at this CND – we are particularly gratified at the decision to run the interactive workshops over the coming days with equal access of all participants to make interventions in the debate, and call on the Chairs of those sessions to ensure that civil society experts are given adequate opportunities to make interventions, to support a rich and interactive debate.

In the coming days, there will be much discussion and negotiation on the procedures for the UNGASS on drugs, and the issues that can be discussed. And it is clear that member states are divided on key issues – most fundamentally, while some member states want to use the UNGASS as an opportunity to reform and modernize the international drug control system, some others are equally determined to ensure that no meaningful reform takes place.

IDPC is a global network of over 130 NGOs and professional networks that exists to promote open and constructive debate on how to make drug policies and programmes humane and effective. Accordingly, it is no surprise therefore that we have consistently called for the UNGASS to be a setting for open and comprehensive debate on past achievements (and failures), current challenges, and future options. And we want the UNGASS to produce some real outcomes that help us all to deal with the diversifying and fast moving challenges we will face in the coming decades. Our traditional strategies have not been conspicuously successful in the past, and without adjustment and modernization, they have little prospect of succeeding in the future.

We are concerned, therefore, at any attempts to limit or stifle this debate – for example by restricting discussions within the framework of the objectives set out in the 2009 political declaration (Refer to Thursday side event for more detail), or avoiding any discussion of activities (already implemented in many countries) that may challenge the current treaty framework.

I am old enough, and have been coming here long enough, to remember many examples of CND heated debates around, and strong resistance to, so called ‘alternative approaches’ that have become established and effective parts of national and international drug strategies:

  • Countries that reduced or removed criminal penalties for drug consumption were warned that their drug use rates would increase, they would suffer from mass ‘drug tourism’, and their actions would undermine international co-operation. This never happened, and ‘depenalisation’ and ‘decriminalisation’ is now the working effectively in dozens of countries, saving significant public expenditures, and recognized by the UNODC and INCB as fully compliant with the Conventions.
  • Countries that introduced needle exchanges, and low threshold access to substitution treatment, were for decades castigated for being too tolerant of illegal behavior, and warned that their policies would increase drug use and health problems, and undermine effective drug control based on zero tolerance. This never happened, and these strategies are now recognized by all serious analysts as being essential elements of global strategies for the prevention of drug related infections such as HIV and Hepatitis.
  • We now see other new drug problems emerging – widespread synthetic production of new psychoactive substances, web based distribution systems, and an increasingly large, lucrative and diverse consumer market. Accordingly, we also see new policy approaches that challenge the assumptions in our traditional strategies, and the flexibility (or ‘limits to latitude’) of the Conventions themselves. There has been one recent withdrawal and re-accession to the treaties, many countries operating consumption rooms (health facilities in which use of illicit drugs is facilitated in safe surroundings), several current initiatives to administer state regulated markets for substances under international control (and more sure to follow in the coming years), and many of these policies and activities have been declared to be not in compliance with the drug control treaties. It would therefore be absurd if the treaty mandated forum (this CND), and the highest level review for the last 18 years (the UNGASS), were not able to examine in detail the tensions between our current agreements, and what is happening on the ground.  

And this is my final point – this forum, and next April the General Assembly, need to demonstrate to a watching world that they are leading the global debate on the changing nature of the world drug problem, and how governments and local administrations can respond to it. At the moment, public and scientific awareness is growing that traditional repressive policies are not achieving their objectives, and that alternative policies have been successfully implemented in many places for many years, and should be welcomed and evaluated objectively.

So, let us approach this UNGASS process in a spirit of enquiry and openness, and constantly reminding ourselves that, whatever the pressures and sensitivities within these rooms, the outside world will not be impressed if all we achieve in 2016 is a re-statement of the consensus declarations we reached with such difficulty in 2009 and 2014.

Sweden – Too much has been on control measures in many countries. Demand reduction, as I have been saying before, is one of the key issues. We talk about changing the conventions and the policies – what kind of resources do you give to the fight against drugs at national level. I see in my own country that we have been putting a lot of efforts in demand reduction. We support NGOs, communities, state initiatives. We learned a lesson from the 1990s, when we had prescription of amphetamines in Sweden. We had a huge amphetamine prescription. We learned that the availability of drugs means that more people are using drugs. More people are misusing alcohol. We should discuss that when we talk about legalisation.

Non-violent Radical Party – Many years ago, fried potatoes were forbidden. Today, cannabis is a useful tool for substitution therapy for example. Iboga is a substance used in Africa by many. It is used as a cultural heritage. And ibogaine is an important element to treat dependence, in particular from heroin. Have we produced any research from ibogaine and can we use this substance to reduce demand?


Gilberto Gerra. UNODC – 
The scientific network was created including more than 40 scientists appointed by member states and are at the service of the CND. Their role does not teach or guide the commission, but produce scientific evidence on the basis of member states’ needs. The conclusions were presented on demand reduction yesterday. A hearing was organised this morning with the scientific network. In the future, we must create in an informal way a permanent collaborative relationship between the network and the CND.

Dr. Piazza – About the mechanisms of addiction – what do we know about it? The only disease for which we have scientific proof is the disease of addiction, and for which we can hope to find treatment. For cocaine (question from Slovenia), today we don’t have treatment for it. Member states don’t spend a lot of money on research for treatment. Even if all drugs are different, there is a vulnerability to become a drug addict.

Lisa Sanchez – I want to use my time to answer two questions asked by the delegates. For Nicaragua – do I consider drug policy reform will contribute to other reforms in corruption, bribery, etc. The answer is yes. Resources can make governments act in a better way. Another question – will reform sort school drop outs and other social problems? It will not be a silver bullet, but it can improve the situation, control drugs in a stricter way through regulation, limit accidents, reduce gender based violence. Under the current policies, nothing is being done on gender violence. Most prisoners in jail today for carrying small quantities of drugs are women.

Konstantin Gobrusenko – The drug trade consists of different elements. I agree that we need to put the person at the very centre, treat people, address their social problems. We need to fight he drug evil. If we block or freeze drug dealers’ accounts, what will happen? We must make drugs not profitable. We talk about precursors – we have strict controls of precursors. But what do we know about components for these precursors and NPS? We need to have a balanced approach, but we must examine all the components of this phenomenon and make this market non-profitable.

Tingfang Wu – In 2009, we agreed that it was our shared responsibility to apply measures to reduce supply and demand and impose disciplinary actions. We adopted resolutions to that end. Because of different cultures in national policies, our current goal is the same. We must act under the international drug control regime to counteract this problem.

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